This is the eighth article in the Editing Life series.
One of the first things I do when I feel overwhelmed is I take a break. By itself, this is not a bad strategy. But some of the things that I take breaks with can actually use up more time than I intend and add to the problem; for now am I not only overwhelmed, but I have less time to get things done.
Finding Your Time-wasters
Determining time wasters is not hard. I don’t recommend doing a time log; it just seems like busy work. I take a more relaxed approach: I just look at the things that I do that have no end result.
The Time Waster List
- Media. Media, particularly television, is a huge draw for many people. I find that if the TV is on, I am sucked into it and I will end up watching something more because it is on than because I made a conscious choice to watch.
- Video games. These can also take a lot of time. The best-designed ones are the ones that pull you further and further in. While interesting, it is still not possible to gain much that is concrete from these games.
- Books. Having been completely absorbed in by four books this summer, to the point that I lost sleep while I was reading them, I can attest to how much books can also waste time. They are by far the biggest time drain for me and I could easily spend my time reading. All the time.
- Internet. The internet is insidious because we may feel like we are doing something productive while in fact we are simply following rabbit trails around. We can lose many precious hours as we check just one more site in the hopes of finding more information.
- Multitasking. Multitasking may seem like we are getting more done because we are doing more things, right? Wrong. The time that the brain must take to switch between tasks actually slows us down overall. Or even worse, we don’t make the switch fully and end up doing the task worse than we would otherwise, causing us to redo things later.
- Sidetracking. Getting sidetracked is one of the worst ways I waste time. I start to do something and end up following a trail of tasks until I remember sometime later what it was I was originally doing. Not only does this keep me from accomplishing what I started out to do, but it also means I usually don’t finish anything, leaving a trail of open loops behind me.
Cutting Back Time-wasters
The first step in controlling time wasters is to recognize what is a waster for you. For me, television, books, internet and sidetracking are my worst. Having decided what they are, I can apply strategies to help me stop doing them:
- Don’t start. For some things, it is just better if I don’t start. For example, if the television is on, I will be drawn to watch. So the TV stays off.
- Limit my time. For activities where I can get sucked in and lose hours, I set a timer. Before-bed reading is controlled by a Bookmark Timer as well as a clock that dims the light to simulate sunset. (My Soleil Sunrise Alarm Clock Radio Ultima)
- Reminders. There are programs on the internet that will question if you are staying on target online (such as x and y). When I am at my sidetracked worth, I carry two pieces of paper around the house. One has the name of the task I am doing on it, and the other is to note things I need to get back to after I finish the first.
By limiting my time wasters, I am able to be more productive with the free time I have. Do you have any thoughts or solutions? Share below.
Photo by Surajram Kumaravel
Articles In the Series: